Ajātashatru ［阿闍世王］ (; Pali Ajātasattu; Ajase-ō): A king of Magadha in India in the time of Shakyamuni Buddha. Incited by Devadatta, he gained the throne by killing his father, King Bimbisāra, a follower of Shakyamuni. He also made attempts on the lives of the Buddha and his disciples by releasing a drunken elephant upon them. Ajātashatru warred with King Prasenajit of Kosala over the domain of Kāshī, but later made peace with Kosala. During the reign of Prasenajit’s son, Virūdhaka, however, Ajātashatru conquered Kosala. Under Ajātashatru’s reign, Magadha became the most powerful kingdom in India. Later he converted to Buddhism out of remorse for his evil acts and supported the First Buddhist Council in its compilation of Shakyamuni’s teachings undertaken the year following Shakyamuni’s death.
According to one account, because King Bimbisāra’s wife, Vaidehī, had borne him no heir, he consulted a diviner. The diviner told him of a hermit living in the mountains who would be reborn as Bimbisāra’s son after he died. Bimbisāra was so impatient for the birth of his heir that he had the hermit killed. Shortly after, Vaidehī conceived, and the diviner foretold that the child would become the king’s enemy. Fearing his son, the king dropped him from atop a tower, but Ajātashatru survived with only a broken finger. Hence he was also called Broken Finger. It is said that he was persuaded to rebel against his father by Devadatta, who revealed to him the story of his birth. After killing his father, however, Ajātashatru came to regret his conduct deeply. Tormented by guilt, he broke out in virulent sores on the fifteenth day of the second month of his fiftieth year, and it was predicted that he would die on the seventh day of the third month. At the advice of his physician and minister Jīvaka, he sought out Shakyamuni, who responded by teaching him the doctrines of the Nirvana Sutra. Ajātashatru was thereby able to eradicate his evil karma and prolong his life. Concerning the Sanskrit name Ajātashatru, ajāta means unborn, and shatru means enemy. Chinese translations of Buddhist scriptures interpret Ajātashatru as “Enemy before Birth” or “Unborn Enemy.” The Sanskrit name is also translated as “Victor over Enemies,” i.e., one who has no born enemies.